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Holy Family Cathedral » Featured » All Part of God’s Great Plan: Father Stanley Rother

All Part of God’s Great Plan: Father Stanley Rother

Father Stanley Rother, former Holy Family associate pastor, is declared a martyr.

fr stanley rother“It is really something to be living in the midst of all this. There was another priest killed to the north of us. That makes three since the first of May. One was kidnaped, presumed dead.

And what can we do about this? What can we do, but do our work, keep our heads down, preach the gospel of love and non-violence.”
Father Stan Rother, 1980

 

Father Stanley Rother was killed by a death squad in his rectory at Saint James the Apostle Church in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.

The year was 1981, a dangerous time to live in Guatemala. There was tension between the Guatemalan government and at least four guerrilla groups trying to overthrow it. The government was mistrustful of any organized groups—including Catholic parishes. They were looking out for anywhere a guerrilla group might meet.

Saint James the Apostle Santiago Atitlan

Saint James the Apostle Church, Santiago Atitlan

Father Rother served two parishes in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala for a total of thirteen years. He had learned the local dialects well enough to celebrate Mass in the Tzutuhil language and to help create a translation of the New Testament.

He acted as a true shepherd to his parish, teaching them how to lift themselves out of poverty by selling coffee from the local fincas (farms). He built up the parish’s buildings and worked to improve local roads and hospitals.

Father Rother wrote in a letter, “A leftist group did come in one night while I was gone and they seemed to have the sympathy of the people… Now don’t be too preoccupied, nothing is going to happen. God will take care of his own. It is all part of His great plan.”

 

Father Rother’s death

The Guatemalan government became suspicious of the parish and of Father Rother when he sheltered a parishioner and catechist inside his own rectory when that parishioner was put on a “death list.”

Father Rother returned to Oklahoma City from time to time. During his stays in Oklahoma, he was counseled to stay in Oklahoma, to leave his Guatemalan parish to fend for themselves. His famous reply is, “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”

He returned to Santiago Atitlan determined to continue to serve his parish. He received several warnings to leave, but he refused.

On the night of July 28, 1981 assassins broke into his rectory and shot him twice in the head. Nine other Catholic priests lost their lives in Guatemala that year. The local bishops decried the killings as “a carefully studied plan to intimidate the Church and silence its prophetic voice.” Father Rother was buried in his home town of Okarche, Oklahoma.

 

Canonization?

In 2006, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Rother’s death, Archbishop Eusebius Beltran of Oklahoma City and Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa invited the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints to begin an investigation into the life of Father Rother. Archbishop Paul Coakley, the current archbishop in Oklahoma City, continues to work closely with the Congregation.

Last year, a Relator was assigned to Father Rother’s cause. The Relator lives and works in Rome and helped to prepare the paperwork on martyrdom.

In June of 2015, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced that Father Rother indeed suffered a martyr’s death—he died for his Faith.

 

Want to know more?

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has many excellent online resources to learn about the life of Father Rother, plus updates on the work done by the Archdiocese and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

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